Tourism Tip #379 / Did the City Just Steal My Bicycle?

No it didn't; but if the bike obstructed the sidewalk or street, it may have been confiscated.

You were happily riding about Tel Aviv on a bicycle, whether borrowed, bought or rented from the Tel O-Fun city bike rental service. You left the bike on the sidewalk. When you go back to get it the next day, it's gone.

Bicycle theft is a problem in Tel Aviv, a city that seems to have been created for the two-wheeled mode of transportation. It's all but flat and the weather is usually gorgeous to hot, though it can and does rain and get cold in winter. In any case, you never want to leave your bike either unattended or unlocked.

But why the recent rash of spluttering Facebook posts, and a few local articles, about the city "stealing" people's bicycles? There's even a Facebook page (in Hebrew) dedicated to the subject, called "The Tel Aviv Municipality Stole my Bicycle".

No, the city isn’t stealing bikes. What is happening is that inspectors may confiscate bicycles obstructing the pavement (or road, for that matter). If the bike is chained, the chain will be cut.

The city doesn't just grab the bike and skedaddle. First an inspector leaves a notice on the offending machine, advising the owner what the problem is and ordering that the bike be moved.

Once the city might give the bike owner as little as an hour to move the thing. Under a new procedure, the offender has 24 hours to comply. (Note that the notice has time and date cited on it.) Still there after 24 hours? Enforcement may ensue and the bike may be taken.

Are there official rules for how one may park one's bike? No. It's a question of common sense, namely, if the parked bike obstructing pedestrians (or vehicles), or not. The law on which the bicycle evacuations are taking place is apparently a city ordinance dating from 1980 governing cleanliness and good order.

Can you get the bike back? Yes. The city stores confiscated bicycles in a warehouse for a month, after which they're junked.

How do you go about it? You call the Sayeret Hayeruka ("the Green Patrol") at 03-7240866/7, citing exactly where the bicycle disappeared from, and when, and provided an accurate description. That is taken as adequate proof that the bicycle is yours. Or you can write to the Sayeret at 95 Levinsky Street, Tel Aviv. And if the city doesn't have it, well, at least you can take comfort in the thought that the real thief is helping to save the planet by using green transportation.

Nir Kafri
Tomer Appelbaum